India Internal Security | Role of external state and non-state actors in creating challenges to internal security

Countries surrounding India have been active in exploiting the volatile situation presented by the turmoil in the northeast. Not only countries such as China, Pakistan, Bangladesh and Myanmar, but also smaller powers such as Bhutan and Nepal have been involved in the region. Through political backing, economic assistance, logistic support, military training or arms supplies these countries have varyingly contributed to the ongoing violence in this region.

The External State Connections


Northeastern India is inhabited by Mongoloid tribes who have close ethnic and cultural ties with the tribes in China, Tibet and Burma. Barring Khasis and Jaintias of Meghalaya, almost all hill tribes belong to the Tibeto-Chinese fold and to the Tibeto-Burmese family.

It was this feeling of affinity towards the border people of erstwhile East Pakistan and Burma that led some of these tribal groups to turn towards their own stock rather than towards the country they resided in.

Apart from the Nagas, the Chinese also extended moral and material support to the Mizo and Meiti insurgents by arranging for their training in guerilla warfare and subversion in training centres in Yunan province of mainland China and Lhasa in Tibet.


East Pakistan, Bangladesh since 1971, was host to many insurgent activities unleashed against India in the northeastern region.

The anti-India operations have been largely possible because of the presence of an overwhelming illegal immigrant Bangladeshi population in the northeast. The porosity of the Indo-Bangladesh border has led to many unanticipated problems for India.

The international terrorist groups like al Qaeda in the Indian Subcontinent (AQIS) and Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) have lately focused their attention to the region. Bangladesh has seen a number of terrorist acts in recent times in the form of killing of secular bloggers and liberals purportedly by ISIS or local extremist groups such as Ansarullah Bangla Team (ABT) which draw their inspiration from global Islamism.

As the extremism grows in Bangladesh, its demonstration effect may lead to increased infusion of fundamentalist ideologies on religious grounds in neighbouring Indian states as well, which may manifest in radicalisation of youth.


India shares a 1670 km long land border and a maritime border of 200 km with Myanmar.

Some Burmese tribals belonging to the Kuki Chin Group are fighting for merger of lands inhabited by them with India.

The Myanmarese rebels ensure that drugs are brought under their protection up to the Tamu on the Indo-Myanmar border and also upto Bangladesh-Myanmar border. The Indian insurgent groups and the Bangladesh syndicates take over from these locations and thereafter push the drugs inland.

Countries that are unfriendly towards India find an opportunity in the ongoing turmoil in the northeast and their involvement has made the problems that much more difficult to resolve. Because of geographical proximity, even smaller countries such as Nepal and Bhutan are unable to remain immune to the developments in this region.

Non State actors

Act of Terrorism, insurgency or extremism by any individual or a groups which has no direct or indirect linkages with any government or any government organization, is said to be done by non-state actors.

The emergence of non-state terrorist actors and the rise of their international influence is accelerating. Much of their activity is clandestine and outside the accepted international norms. International and state-sponsored terrorism, often motivated by fundamentalist ideologies, backed by secretive but efficient financial networks, use of IT, clandestine access to chemical-biological and nuclear materials, and illicit drug trafficking, has emerged as a major threat to international stability.

They pose threats to multireligious, multiethnic and pluralistic societies. India is at the receiving end of these violent elements and is likely to remain a target of international terrorism in the future. Strategies need to be evolved to counter the threat of Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMD) terrorism as well as cyber-terrorism; the latter especially against infrastructural and economic assets such as banking, power, water and transportation sectors.

Pakistan has been waging a proxy war against India since the 1980s. Since the Kargil War and the military coup of October 12, 1999, Pakistan’s support to cross border terrorism has intensified and is expected to continue in the future. The rapid growth of Islamic fundamentalism in Pakistan is also of serious concern to India.

Through its nexus with the Taliban and Jihadi elements, as well as its involvement in religious extremism, international terrorism and the narcotics trade, Pakistan poses a threat not only to India but to the stability of the region as well.

Threats posed by them to internal security of India:

  1. Bomb blasts, attacks on major establishments/public places (Akshardham, 26/11 etc.) which partially dismantles India’s stability
  2. They bring fake currency to India and try to hit Indian economy
  3. They smuggle weapons, drugs (in Punjab/Northeast) in India, directly targeting the  youth
  4. Extremist non state actors also include religious fanatics which propagate religious hatred which can led to communal tensions in the country
  5. They can also incite people for regionalism thus demanding their separate state which further increases secessionist tendencies

Terrorists/insurgents are receiving weapons mainly from across the borders with the assistance of organised smuggling groups. Most of the arms are coming from Pakistan through the ISI, Pakistani based fundamentalist organisations, Afghan Mujahideen groups and the militants themselves, who bring arms from Durrah in the North West Frontier Province (NWFP).

The smugglers have also acquired high- powered speed boats, which can land at uncharted beaches and creeks. Arms are also coming through the long and porous Indo-Nepal border. In addition, arms are being smuggled via Bangladesh and Myanmar.

Today’s terrorists, be they religious extremists, Jehadis, international cults like Aum Shinrikiyo or individual nihilists, may gain access to nuclear, biological, and chemical weapons or raw materials. NBC terrorism today has moved from the stage of far-fetched horror to a contingency that could happen tomorrow. The advances in IT and communications have made terrorism with Weapons/Materials of Mass Destruction easier to carry out.

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By B2B

Revisiting the Basics

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